Music festival to benefit Lyme research, awareness

Les Stroud
Les Stroud (Les Stroud Productions photo,)

Musicians will sing and strum and play the harmonica Thursday night in Annapolis night to raise funds — and awareness — for Lyme disease.

Headlining the Ticked Off Music Fest will be Les Stroud, a TV survivalist and musician from Canada. He'll be joined by two musicians who survived Lyme disease and a lawyer-singer-songwriter from Annapolis.


"My hope is to bring awareness to Anne Arundel County about the dangers of tick-borne diseases," said Karen Owen, a fitness instructor and mother from the Broadneck community who is organizing the concert.

Stroud is best known as TV's "Survivorman." In his show on the Discovery Channel, the Canadian films himself in the wilderness as he finds a way to survive with no food, water or gear. In addition to being a survival expert, Stroud is also a musician who has written his TV theme songs, released multiple albums and performed at music festivals.


Stroud will be joined by Lyme survivors Alisa Turner and Gregg Kirk, as well as Annapolis-based musician and environmental attorney Dirk Schwenk.

This is the third "ticked off" concert run by Kirk, a Connecticut musician who said he struggled with Lyme for years.

The inaugural concert was held in Wilmington, Del., last year and another was held in Jacksonville, Fla., earlier this year. Concerts are in the works for Los Angeles and Long Island, Kirk said.

Each concert raises money for organizations or Lyme researchers. The Annapolis show will benefit the National Capital Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Association.

Owen contacted Kirk to organize the Annapolis show. She's had Lyme disease and has been active in raising awareness of the illness and pushing for better diagnostic tests.

Owen isn't sure how or when exactly she contracted Lyme. After she tested positive, she was treated with antibiotics for 18 months. She said she also tested positive and was treated for other diseases that may have come from ticks, including the Bartonella bacterial infection and the Babesiosis parasite.

Many Lyme advocates are concerned that the tests for Lyme aren't reliable. Owen said there's also no test to see if treatment has worked.

"A terrific amount of people are misdiagnosed," she said.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by the bite of a black-legged tick, often called a deer tick, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Symptoms include a fever, headache, fatigue and a bull's-eye rash.

Kirk, who plays with a band called the Zen Engines, said he was inspired to use his musical talents to help the cause of Lyme disease after he finally recovered from Lyme.

Kirk said he went undiagnosed for two years as doctors struggled to find a cause for a lethargy so pervasive that he could barely get off the couch.


"I didn't have any of the classic hallmarks of Lyme: No bull's-eye rash and I didn't find a tick," he said.

Kirk was eventually treated with antibiotics and herbal medications. He claims an encounter with a healer in Brazil put him on the full path to recovery. With his renewed health, he has focused on his music and raising awareness of Lyme disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 30,000 people get Lyme disease each year, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. But the CDC acknowledges that the estimate does not include all Lyme cases, and the true number may be about 300,000.

In 2013, there were 1,194 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Maryland, according to state health officials. Anne Arundel had the third-largest number of cases, 97, behind Baltimore County (144) and Harford County (103).

State data show a rapid increase of Lyme cases from 2000 to 2007: The number of cases doubled from 1,248 in 2006 to 2,576 in 2007, followed by a gradual decrease.

The Ticked Off Music Fest will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Loews Hotel, 126 West St. in Annapolis. Tickets are for sale at tickedoffmusicfest.com.


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